V8s are too fuel-hungry, and four-cylinders too banal. The true goldilocks choice is the six-cylinder, and manufacturers know it. Why else would there be so many variants — inline, V, VR, flat? Yesterday, we asked for your favorite six-cylinder engines, and today we’re combing through your hundreds of answers for the best — with exhaust sound clips for maximum viewing pleasure.
Jeep’s 4.0. There isn’t an exhaust out to make it sound good, and it’s impossible to get any power out of the slug that it is. But it’s bullet proof. It can take a ton of abuse and keep going. It’ll run on almost no oil and be fine - ask me how I know. They can take a ton of miles. Will the rest of your Jeep be as good as the 4.0 around it? Probably not. But your motor is SOLID.
Long after every XJ has rusted away into nothing, their 4.0 engines will continue to run, unbothered. The Earth will not go to the meek, or to cockroaches; it’ll go to the four-litre inline six.
Chrysler Slant Six
The Chrysler Slant Six:
Canted over 30 degrees—allowing fantastic use of space under the hood. The best iteration being 225 cubic inches of unkillable power thanks to its forged crank. You want the definition of “bullet proof”, it’s this engine.
Will a Slant Six pin you back in your seat? Absolutely not. Will it run long after it should naturally have died? Almost certainly.
Alfa Romeo Busso V6
Alfa Romeo Busso V6
Not only does it look pretty but it also made a glorious sound.
The Busso isn’t a particularly new engine, but it somehow sounds even older than it is. That’s a compliment.
The Jaguar XK (Not The Car)
Racing pedigree? Powered some of the fastest cars of the world in its day? Good enough for a 43 year production life? Just looks really pretty? The Jaguar XK has all of these traits, and I silently judge anyone who transplants a Chevy 350 in its place.
Did you know the Jaguar XK120 sports car was named for its engine? And that the name just stuck around into modernity? I didn’t, but now I do, thanks to Maymar.
Any engine that sounds this good deserves a spot on the list. Doesn’t really matter which list it is. Give this motorcycle a Michelin star.
The GM 3800
The GM 3800 has to be up there. Didn’t matter if you were drag racing, driving the Indy 500, or going to the grocery store over a ~40 year period, it had ya covered.
Someday, I have to own a Grand National. I don’t really know why, I have no particular childhood attachment to it, but it just speaks to me.
This is the engine that never makes any lists, but I want to show it some love.
But it’s a pretty solid engine that could have had an interesting story if its development would have continued. Toyota 1fz-fe. Stock they run from 212/275 hp/lbs-ft to 225/285 lbs-ft. Not far off the 4.7 liter V8 that replaced it at 230/315. Rumor has it that VVt was next on the menu and would have put it into the same class. I would guess 250 hp peak and 290 lbs-ft everywhere.
The reasons it isn’t a legendary engine is because it was only available for a few years, so aftermarket support is terrible. Plus it was CRAZY heavy and was a heavy drinker.
They had some head gasket issues due to required materials changes they hadn’t nailed down yet, but you replace it with a modern one once and you’ll never worry about it again. Mine is at 338,000 miles and returns factory power and burns no oil.
Forged crank, 7 bearing main, piston oil jets, closed deck, steel block. It was WAY overbuilt for passenger car duty. But it had a really “meh” performance head design. With a little work though...
I think I heard 2500 hp for this one.
If you want an overbuilt Toyota inline six, that eats boost and spits out power, you don’t need a 2JZ. Look no further than the 1Fz for all your four-digit power needs.
Further up than the Buick Grand National on the Things I Need to Own list, we come to the 997 Porsche 911 Turbo and its Mezger engine. Listen to this, and tell me you don’t want this car.
Well, not the best, and I am biased, but I love the BMW S54. The only thing I believe keeping it from greatness is it doesn’t sound very good.
Also, on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, (and no, still not the “best”), but the GM 3800, (especially later series), was excellent. Well built, economic, good and smooth power. Nobody is going to race to BoT to outbid someone for a car with one, but it got millions of kids to soccer on time.
The S54 certainly doesn’t sound great stock, but a good exhaust can really liven it up. If you don’t want yours, I’ll take it off your hands.
Second all the votes for the Slant Six. Dead reliable and soldiered on as the volume engine for decades along with being actually quite innovative. Second also the votes for the Jeep 4.0. What hasn’t already been said about that engine? Same with GM’s 3800 - effectively a perfect V6.
My dark horse candidate: the Pentastar V6. This engine was the hail mary of the dying Chrysler Corporation. All their chips went into its development and was one of the few redeeming qualities that remained after bankruptcy. This engine was meant to be effectively a universal engine (and it succeeded) that ended up in almost everything that Chrysler made. It was also adapted for use by the FCA Italian brands. As of 2019, over 10 million of them had been made with the number continuing to climb with no real hard stop in sight.
Despite the issues with the oil cooler in the engine’s cylinder valley (a compromise to aid packaging the engine as a unit) the Pentastar will go down as a truly unsung hero of volume, efficiency (relative) and reliability.
Here, we finally come to an engine I’ve actually owned — the Pentastar V6, as found in my old Wrangler. Let me say, this is not an exciting engine. But it did get me to high school and back, and that counts for something.
Straight Six beats V6 all day, every day.
There are many great diesel straight six engines, and Cummins is right up there at the top of the heap. There is a reason why long-haul truckers prefer straight six engines over even V8 engines.
If we ignore diesels, my votes are:
1) Chrysler 225 Slant Six
2) Ford 300 (and I hate Fords!)
3) Jeep 4.0L
Honorable mention to Honda for making one of the greatest V6 engines readily available to the masses. The 3.5L V6 has been in production now for something like 26 years, and still competes well today. It’s silky smooth and revs very quickly. Other than the Variable Cylinder Management fiasco from 2008 through 2013, it has a stellar history. You can get a number of VCM-defeating devices, so you can still have a great V6 nowadays in a modern Honda (sadly, not available in their Accords anymore).
Honda will still give you the J-series in its biggest vehicles, meaning we can all still get that sweet reliability we crave from the Big H. Put mine in a Ridgeline.
The Ford/Mazda/Jag Cyclone V6.
It’s so light and compact that it is popular in aviation applications.
It makes gobs of torque in the mid range. We’re talking 20-30lb.ft more than the same displacement VQ37 at a 1000 RPMs lower.
It can make 350hp with a simple intake porting & tune. And it can push 380hp NA with full bolt-ons since it can handle 8000RPM on stock internals. Ford had no incentive to get everything they could out of this engine, so they left a lot on the table.
It likes boost, and the high-revving nature of the engine is well suited to a centrifugal SC.
It sounds amazing with just an intake. Very strong VTEC vibes. I lent my old car to a Porsche-driving friend for a few days and he commented, “I’m addicted to the intake you put on that.” Add shorty headers and a proper exhaust and you’ll be getting a lot of compliments.
It’s Atkinson Cycle motor. Which is a detriment to performance, but does drastically improve fuel economy.
Can be had in RWD configuration.
An old V6 Mustang with a shorter rear-end and some bolt-ons makes for quite the sleeper. But there are plenty of other vehicles with this engine (or the 3.5L variant).
The V6 Mustang is the classic comparison car for track enthusiasts. How many V6 Mustangs can you get for the price of a McLaren, Lotus, or well-maintained Miata?
I know it is a cop-out but the N55 engine is one of my favorite sixes. It was BMW’s second attempt at a turbo-6 and while it lost a turbo to the N54, it gained better oil circulation, fuel injectors and made up for many of its predecessors other reliability and maintenance shortfalls. It was also underrated from the factory and easily tunable to close to 400 hp without any major part upgrades. Sure, the N54 is more tunable than the N55 but in base and mildly modified states, the N55's slightly quicker spool up time and significantly better reliability make it a gem.
I recall driving a friend’s E92 shortly after they made the engine switch and loving not just the power but the delivery and flexibility throughout the rev range. It had very little if any turbo lag and kept pulling even at higher RPMs, unlike my tuned EJ255 that had roughly the same power and torque numbers.
I’ll admit, I’m surprised this is only the second BMW engine on the list. I figured the Bavarians would rule a six-cylinder competition, but there they are — outshone by Stellantis.
Volvo / Polestar Straight 6
Volvo straight six in the prev gen XC60, V70, etc? Twin-scroll turbos for 300 HP. I loved that Volvo until it was totaled in an accident. It had a few maintenance issues, but none too expensive and none engine related. (Now that Haldex AWD, that was a bit more problematic).
Sure, the XC60 is cool and all, but how about the V60 Polestar? A fast wagon, decked out in Swedish Racing Blue? Who could say no to that?
I’m surprised by the lack of Porsche in the comments. You’d think a 520 hp, 9000 RPM, 4.0L flat six would be a shoo-in.
We had the Mezger earlier, but what about the absolutely beautiful 4.0 engine? The GT cars, whether GT3 or GT4, get some fantastic-sounding powerplants.